As we anxiously await the return of more than 10,000 students to campus next week, the seasonal rhythms are very familiar. Excitement is building for the start of fall classes, football games and concerts.

Everything seems normal, but I am unable to get this simple question out of my mind. What will it take for these students to compete and succeed?

After all, that is what Tennessee Tech is known for. We have the best educational return on investment in Tennessee. This is based on our affordable tuition, coupled with successful career placement for our graduates.

However, things are not like they used to be. The world that these students face is changing dramatically and rapidly before our very eyes. And we risk missing the message because we are so focused on the present.

In his book “The Industries of the Future,” Alec Ross clearly points out in lay terms the changes we are about to experience due to technological achievements in genomics, robotics, codification of money and markets, cybersecurity, big data, and autonomous transportation.

The relatively recent changes we have experienced in communication, e-commerce, advanced manufacturing and medicine will most assuredly pale in comparison to what is rapidly approaching. Imagine riding in a driverless car, direct delivery of groceries and other products to your home without even having to place an order, eating fresh produce that was never touched by human hands or grown in the ground, no more need to carry cash or credit cards, and medical treatment that is specific to your personal genome.

These changes may be both hard to believe and a bit scary, and history teaches us that change creates both challenges and opportunities. There will be winners and losers. There will be new careers created and old jobs eliminated.

So back to my question. What will it take for our current students and future graduates to compete and succeed in this world of dynamic change?

As a leading technological university, this question is core to our nature and mission. We are not only heavily involved in the creation of many of these new technologies, but we stand in an ideal position to educate our students on the social, economic and historical impact of these technologies.

It is no longer enough to simply be technologically literate. Graduates today must understand how to utilize the technology most effectively for social and economic benefit. This is what sets Tennessee Tech apart from most other universities.

I am proud to say that Tennessee Tech continues to offer a real education, for real people, who seek a real career!

Welcome to the new academic year. This is going to fun!

Go Eagles! #WingsUp

P.S. I want to especially thank Dr. Barbara Fleming for the book recommendation.

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